Massachusetts bill no longer criminalises online poker

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Online poker players in the USA have won a victory – a Massachusetts bill authorizing construction of two casinos no longer criminalises internet gambling and online poker.

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The bill is currently being fast tracked through the legislature and if approved would approve licenses for casinos in the commonwealth and it originally had language that would make online gambling and poker illegal.
“Any person who knowingly transmits or receives a wager of any type by any telecommunication device, including telephone, cellular phone, Internet, local area network, including wireless local networks, or any other similar device or equipment or other medium of communication, or knowingly installs or maintains said device or equipment for the transmission or receipt of wagering information shall be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than 2 years, or by a fine of not more than $25,000, or both such fine or imprisonment.”

If the bill had gone through the penalty for playing online poker of all stakes in the Commonwealth was set to be up to be two years behind bars and a $25,000 fine.

Now after a campaign by groups like the Poker Players Alliance the wording has been removed from the bill meaning that poker will not be crimanalised.

In a press release from the PPA, executive director John Pappas welcomed the development: “Of course, the PPA is very pleased that the House-passed gaming bill does not criminalize online poker, but I am even more proud of our members in Massachusetts who really stepped up to the plate on this issue and made their voices heard among the House lawmakers. This was grassroots at its finest.”

The bill still has to pass through the Senate, but it seems unlikely that the removed language would be added back in. The bill is expected to pass both houses and be signed into law.

An amendment to the casinos bill in Massachusetts is also still under consideration and if passed this would define poker as a “skill game.” This would mean that poker would not be lumped in with other games of chance.

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